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Understanding Pickleball Noise Causes and Possible Solutions

Est. Reading: 6 minutes

2023 has been an excellent year for pickleball. I'd say there hasn't been more growth in a single year since its inception in 1965.

Pickleball courts are appearing like mushrooms almost everywhere, especially in the US. But with ups, come downs. Currently, the biggest concern with these courts is the annoying noise paddles make when they hit a ball.

Personally, I like the noise. But I completely get why some people don't – it can be a nuisance. So what's behind the noise, and how can you reduce it?

How Loud is Pickleball Noise?

At its peak, the sound when the pickleball paddle hits the ball is 70 dBA (decibels) from 100 feet away. This is similar to the noise in freeway traffic. Comparably, a running vacuum cleaner has a noise level between 70 and 80 dBA.

Is Pickleball Noisier Than Tennis?

Yes. In fact, almost twice as loud. Tennis is only around 40 dBA. Pickleball's "pop" sound has a higher pitch than tennis. Also, remember that four pickleball courts can fit in a single tennis court. 

Pickleball noise is produced with a shorter time gap and higher frequency than tennis sound, which can be very annoying. Now imagine this with four games going on at the same time. If you want to know more about the difference between these two sports, read our Pickleball vs Tennis Compared: Similarities and Differences.

Can Pickleball Noise Damage Hearing?

According to Nicole Laffan, an audiologist and associate clinical professor at the Northeastern Bouvé College of Health Sciences, pickleball noise does not damage hearing.

He emphasized that the danger starts when the noise reaches 120-140 dBA. This correlates with the recommendation from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that a 24-hour exposure to environmental noise of 70 dBA will not result in lifetime hearing loss.

What Makes Pickleball Sound Annoying?

People with normal hearing can hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hz. The pickleball sound has a high pitch, with a frequency of about 1.2k Hz. This is why we can hear it more than other paddle sports.

For comparison, pickleball noise has almost the same frequency as the sound from garbage truck backup beepers. Imagine how often you must endure the unique "pop" sound when a player hits the ball with games up to 11 and usually plays for hours.

Because a pickleball pop starts quickly and ends within 2-4 milliseconds, experts categorize it as an impulsive sound. 

Other impulsive sounds include dog barking, continuous hammering on metal, and a dripping faucet. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, an impulsive sound causes higher stress and lower performance than quiet and steady-state sounds, especially in a work environment. So, it could be unpleasant if the courts are near anyone doing anything significant.

Factors That Contribute to Noise in Pickleball

To address the issue of pickleball noise, we should first understand that it is a complex problem. Several factors contribute to it, and below are the most significant ones:

Paddle Material

The materials used in pickleball paddles are a massive contributor to the noise. Nomex is the noisiest for the paddle core but results in faster ball bouncing. Polymer is the quietest but is the most expensive material.

The paddle surface is also a significant factor that directly makes contact with the paddle. The harder the surface is, the louder the noise it produces, considering that the ball is made of hard plastic.

Design of Balls

Indoor pickleball balls are different from those used outdoors. Indoor balls have larger and fewer holes, while outdoor balls are heavier. The reason for these differences is the wind interference when played outdoors.

Heavier balls result in better plays, but they also produce louder noise. This is also why you should refrain from using outdoor balls indoors. But regardless of the type of ball used, noise is still unavoidable. You may also read our Indoor vs Outdoor Pickleball Balls Comparison Guide.

Court Surface

Several pickleball court surfaces include asphalt, cement, clay, grass, and polyurethane. Each has different effects on the ball's bouncing. However, harder court surfaces lead to a higher amplification of the noise they produce.

Today, many tennis courts have been converted into pickleball courts. But because most are hard courts, they make plenty of loud noises.

Game Intensity

Pickleball games can sometimes be intense, especially if a money prize is involved. Highly skilled players are expected to exchange power shots and drastic swings here.

As they become more aggressive, the fast-speeding ball will produce louder noises as it touches the paddle and the ground. The cheering of the excited crowd (if there is one) also adds to the noise in the pickleball court.

Poor Planning of Pickleball Courts

As pickleball became more popular, more and more tennis courts near residential areas were converted to pickleball courts, which is now the primary concern of many irritated homeowners.

Some complaints in some states lead to conflicts and even lawsuits. There seems to be poor planning in building pickleball courts in specific communities.

How to Reduce Pickleball Noise

Amid the controversy that is interrupting the growth of pickleball, some individuals and groups came up with possible solutions:

Quieter Pickleball Paddles

Some pickleball product manufacturers released so-called quiet pickleball paddles. However, reviews from some players claim otherwise, and these products have yet to solve the problem. Last September, USA Pickleball announced the addition of the Quiet Category and coordinated with companies to help design paddles that produce less noise. The country's governing body of the sport also plans to expand this project.

Two months later, a new company named OWL Sport launched Owl Paddle, which promises to reduce pickleball noise by 50 percent. This product is the first-ever pickleball paddle certified by USA Pickleball in the Quiet category. 

Note, however, that this new paddle is not approved for sanctioned tournaments. Instead, it was designed primarily to reduce noise in pickleball courts near the neighborhoods. 

Quiet Pickleball Balls

Another recommendation to reduce pickleball noise is to use foam balls. Compared to plastic balls, they are slightly lighter, a bit smaller, and have no holes. As the name suggests, these quiet foam balls are made of soft material that absorbs some of the impact while being hit by the paddle. Some reports even claim that these quiet pickleball balls can reduce noise by up to 75 percent. However, we can't find solid evidence to support these claims.

However, foam balls are not actual pickleball balls and do not comply with the standard. They also don't bounce as high as traditional ones, which affects the speed and dynamics of the games.

The material used is foam, which is prone to damage when wet and unsuitable for outdoor play. You can only use them as practice balls indoors. But at least the noise stays minimized.

Sound Barriers

Sound barriers can help mitigate pickleball noise by blocking, absorbing, or reflecting sound waves. Building a concrete wall around the pickleball court will block the noise from propagating outside, while wood is better for absorption. Meanwhile, commercial sound barriers are usually made of mass-loaded vinyl (MLV), wherein sound is reflected in a new direction through a process called diffraction.

However, MLV sound barriers should block the line-of-sight view to be effective. It means that if a pickleball court is next to a second-story house, the acoustic screen should also be the same height or taller.

The actual cost depends on the court size and the kind of environment you have. Although they are easy to install, reflective sound barriers are pretty expensive, require regular maintenance, and pose a risk of damage during windy weather. This seems highly inefficient and is not a good use of resources, in my opinion.

Regulate Playing Time

If there are complaints about the noise and you cannot afford to install sound barriers, you can regulate the playing hours. This strategy will give the neighborhood some time to ease the burden of the disturbance. To make sure everybody is happy, talk to your neighbors so you'll have an idea of how to schedule the playing time. If they agree, ensure it will be implemented to avoid misunderstandings.

However, some residents may disagree and demand the closure of the court.

Unfortunately, this happened in some areas last April, including the pickleball courts at Congress Park in Denver, Colorado. Coordinate with local agencies and experts who can correctly assess your area.

Proper Planning

So far, this is the best move to avoid noise pollution complaints. Before building a pickleball court in your area, know the noise ordinances and provide an allowance. Otherwise, it could be a costly mistake.

Remember, the noise problem is not only about the decibel level but also the pitch. Therefore, you should not suddenly assume that converting a tennis court into a pickleball court in your community will not lead to complaints.

Also, people have different tolerance levels to noise. Some residents may be accustomed to the pickleball sound, while others are not. Listen to their concerns, and don't push yourself to them. If possible, combine all the noise mitigation techniques. Then, explain to them the value of the sport and invite them to try it.

Final Thoughts

To sum it up, pickleball noise is becoming a severe problem that needs to be addressed carefully as the sport expands. Changing the standards or equipment is not easy because it might involve reducing the sport's level of excitement.

However, as pickleball fanatics, we should also be considerate of our neighbors who prefer a quiet environment.

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Kev B
Kev B
3 months ago

NOTHING!! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!
IS LOUDER OR MORE DISRUPTIVE THAN GRUNTING/SCREAMING/ GROANING TENNIS PLAYERS!!
I'm a former tennis player and I can't believe that people are FREAKING out over Pickleball noise!!???
Get the #### over it...

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